August 25 2021 Meeting of LDSB Board of Trustees
Each meeting, a different Trustee will present the Indigenous Acknowledgement of Territory and include their own personal reflections.
Private Session Update
Trustee Hutcheon stated that in Private Session prior to the August 25, 2021 Regular Board Meeting there was a personnel update but no motions or decisions resulted. There was no other business conducted.
Chair Suzanne Ruttan provided the following report.
The Chair stated that Limestone is ready to welcome students to their first day of classes on Tuesday, September 7, 2021 and staff will begin the new school year with a Professional Activity Day on Friday, September 3, 2021.
Trustees look forward to a more typical school routine with the return of some extra-curriculars, sports, field trips and the return of music and arts programming with some restrictions in place. Limestone schools will continue with the various safety protocols in place, that are familiar, adhering to Public Health and Ministry guidelines.
Chair Ruttan stated that Facility Services staff have been busier than ever over the summer, not only with the typical school repairs and renovations, but also with ventilation systems inspections and improvements, which will continue into the coming months.
On behalf of Trustees, the Chair acknowledged the incredible effort of all staff who have continued to work over the summer break, and especially over the last weeks, to ensure plans would be in place for a safe return to in-person learning.
She also acknowledged LDSB communities and education partners for the confidence they have shown and expressed to the Board. She added that Trustees and staff want the return to school to be safe and successful for everyone. LDSB will continue to work hard to ensure school communities have confidence in public education.
Chair Ruttan formally welcomed Limestone’s incoming Student Trustees for the 2021-2022 school year. Trustees value and welcome the contributions Student Trustees make at the Board level, representing the students of Limestone.
Chair Ruttan introduced Student Trustee Breanna Roy, who serves as the Indigenous Student Trustee, Student Trustee Tanesha Duncan, representing Limestone’s urban students and Shana Johnson, who represents Limestone's rural students.
She concluded her report by wishing students and staff a super first day of classes on Tuesday, September 7.
Director of Education Krishna Burra provided the following report.
The Director remarked how it is hard to believe school will begin in just under two weeks, as we enter the third school year impacted by the COVID pandemic. While there is the usual excitement for all students, families, and staff with the approaching school year, the LDSB is cautiously optimistic that everyone will have a better school year than experienced during the past 18 months.
While much work has been done, there remain a few items on which LDSB is awaiting confirmation from the Ministry and Public Health. Director Burra said undoubtedly, there will be further updates as the year proceeds, and remaining flexible will continue to be critical.
Director Burra mentioned that a new 'frequently asked questions' section has been updated on the board website and it continues to be updated as new information is received or amended. A family quick reference guide will be released shortly to help prepare families and students for the new school year.
Director Burra indicated that staff have had the opportunity to participate in rich professional learning as part of the 2021 LDSB Summer Institute. These voluntary sessions were open to all staff. Two keynote sessions focused on creating more equitable outcomes for students and an interactive session on supporting your own well-being and how that impacts the climate of a classroom and the behaviour and emotional health of students. Afternoon sessions included topics ranging from anti-Black racism resources, empowering students in math, phonological awareness, writers’ workshops, engagement in core French, student mental health, and transitioning from Google Classroom to Minds Online. He thanked staff who volunteered to organize and support this learning event.
Director Burra reminded everyone the best indicator for the health of schools is the health of the community. Local community health circumstances directly impacted Limestone schools last year and will continue to be the primary indicator of the pandemic’s impact in 2021-2022.
He said we all must continue to do what we can to ensure schools remain open. Thankfully, based on statements from local Public Health authorities related to local vaccination rates and low case counts, LDSB is well positioned to open schools safely.
Director Burra stated we have overcome significant obstacles in the last two school years, and undoubtedly our collective efforts will be required to surmount potential challenges that lie ahead. The LDSB appreciates everyone's continued resilience and support.
Report for Information: Interim Reporting on Third Quarter Financials
Superintendent of Business Services Craig Young and Manager of Financial Services Myra Baumann provided a report on the interim financial operating expenditures for the period ending May 31, 2021.
As at Quarter 3, $195,664,741 of the $261,682,447 operating budget or 75% has been spent and aligns with the spending level reported for the same period last year. The Board expects to end the 2020‐2021 fiscal year in a surplus budget position.
Report for Information: Ventilation and HVAC Improvements to Address COVID-19
Superintendent of Business Service Young and Manager of Facility Services Dave Fowler provided the following report on the changes and improvements to ventilation systems in schools, and to advise on the standardized Ministry reporting requirements regarding HVAC systems within LDSB’s schools.
Several measures were implemented for 2020-2021 school year and will continue for 2021-2022. Limestone has already implemented the following best practices:
1. Implement additional filter changes for increased and improved air flow and air quality in
all filtered HVAC units.
2. Adjust building automation programing to increase HVAC run times from two hours before
the building is occupied to two hours after the building has been vacated to increase the
“flushing” of air within the building.
3. Adjust, where possible, the damper opening to increase the amount of fresh air that is
supplied through the HVAC unit.
4. Complete operational audits on all the HVAC units within the schools via HVAC contractors.
The deficiencies noted will be rectified in a timely manner for school startup.
LDSB received 820 HEPA filtration units and $49,000 in funding. The HEPA units will be installed in schools without mechanically supplied and filtered fresh air, as well as all Kindergarten rooms regardless of the type of ventilation system. LDSB has ordered another 30 larger HEPA units to meet the gymnasium ventilation guidelines as set out by the Ministry.
Superintendent Young added the Board will be required to post ventilation reports on its website as of September 3, 2021 as well as the School Board Ventilation Strategy, School Board Investments and School Dashboard which will include ventilation and filtration measures that are currently being utilized in each school.
Report for Information: September 2021 School Re-entry - Update
Director Burra provided a follow-up report on planning for the return to school.
LDSB Virtual School registration remains stable at 209 elementary students and 141 secondary students. Deadline for families to register is August 26, 2021.
School boards are still awaiting further information on the immunization disclosure protocols for staff. By September 7 all staff must submit a formal attestation indicating they are fully vaccinated (proof required), cannot be vaccinated for documented medical reasons, or choose not to be vaccinated (must participate in a Ministry of Education education session). Unvaccinated staff will be required to complete regular COVID-19 testing, at least once per week, and includes school visitors, bus drivers, placement students, volunteers, trustees, third-party contractors, and other professionals who deliver services in our schools.
LDSB has intentionally tried to ensure virtual teaching and learning was separate from in-person teaching and learning as it is not optimal for either students or staff. The board is planning to utilize most of the $1.5M of COVID funding to support additional staffing and may include providing another opportunity for students to change their learning model during the school year.
If LDSB receives the remaining COVID funding (another $1.5M) later in the fall, this will further buffer staffing in the system and allow for potential movement however three scenarios where two different models of learning may be challenged.
(i) If Limestone experiences a significant surge in requests among families for virtual learning
after the school year is under way, and elementary reorganization has been completed, the only way to accommodate significant movement between learning models would be if hybrid learning was utilized.
(ii) Given outbreak protocol and management distinguishes between vaccinated and
unvaccinated students and staff, when a positive case is identified in Grade 7-12 classrooms, in most cases, vaccinated students and staff will be able to continue in-person attendance without having to self-isolate. However, unvaccinated students and staff will have to self-isolate for 10 days. A hybrid model of learning may be the best option for unvaccinated students to receive programming during self-isolation. Given students in Kindergarten to Grade 6 are currently ineligible for vaccines, a positive case in a class would likely result in the entire class moving to virtual learning for 10 days.
(iii) Providing a virtual option this year is required by the Ministry of Education. Given the
significantly lower number of secondary students currently enrolled in secondary virtual school, and the very small number of compulsory credits in Grades 11-12, hybrid learning may be required to support educational pathways for some students.
LDSB is still awaiting further information on the logistics for COVID testing for staff and other groups who are not vaccinated; Public Health parameters for some curricular and extracurricular activities; and Community Use of Schools Guidelines.
Reports for Information: Masking Information Regular Board Meeting
Director Burra provided further information on masking.
Medical masks (surgical/procedural) are provided by the school board for all employees. These are provided directly by the Ministry of Education to school boards.
According to Ministry and Public Health documentation: “N95 respirator masks are not recommended in schools, unless staff are providing care for a student during an aerosol generating medical procedure which, where appropriate, is provided by the employer.”
Staff consulted with KFL&A Public Health regarding the notice of motion to seek their input and expertise. Public Health would not recommend N95 or KN95 masks, or other respirators, for individual staff members because they do not likely add any significant amount of protection over medical masks with other controls in place (vaccination, distance, screening) in a school setting and some of these masks are less effective due to user error.
From a senior staff perspective, loosening or opening masking options, while well intended, would likely create some challenges and confusion. Staff requiring a different type of mask due to a medical need, could seek a medical accommodation for a different mask.
New Business: Notice of Motion
Trustees debated and voted on two motions brought forward at the Special Meeting of the Board on August 18, 2021.
The first motion, brought forward by Trustee Elliott, dealt with staff masking. “That LDSB educators and education staff be allowed to provide their own Health Canada approved respirator, if desired, when that respirator is listed on the Health Canada website. They must put on and take off all respirators as described by the CCOHS (see figure 2). Any educator or education staff who wishes to wear the Ministry-provided medical masks will continue to have masks provided to them.”
Trustees voted on the motion: Four in favour and five against. The motion was lost.
The second motion, brought forward by Trustee Elliott dealt with student vaccination. “That the Limestone District School Board write a letter endorsing the Ontario Public School Boards' Association’s statement of August 17, 2021, that the government act as quickly as possible to update the Immunization of School Pupils Act to determine whether COVID-19 should be added to the compulsory vaccination list.”
Trustees voted on the motion: Seven in favour. One against. The motion was carried.